Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Miracle of Birth

I had heard about the miracle of birth, but until recently I had not really experienced it from an observer’s perspective.

I don’t remember my own birth – but I sure heard about it from my mother. Apparently I wouldn’t turn my head the right way as I was coming down the birth canal and they couldn’t get me out of the womb. This caused my mother to endure a longer and more difficult labor. I’m not sure she ever forgave me for that.

In retrospect, I think this painful event was my first experience of getting lost. I have no sense of direction and was probably looking for an alternate route. When I’m driving I make a lot of U-turns, but when it comes to birthing down the vaginal highway, there is no turning back.

When my daughters, Alicia and Brittany, were born, I focused on getting them delivered. I was not thinking about the miracle of birth, I was thinking, “Get that baby out of there!” When Alicia’s head crowned, my husband, John, practically squealed with excitement as he said, “I can see the head.” I remember thinking (but not saying) “What the hell did you think you’d see, a choo-choo train?”

When I was in labor with Brittany things went so fast that all I could think of was whether to push, push, push or bite, bite, bite my lip.

Although both of my daughter’s births were relatively easy, and were absolutely the happiest moments of my life, it did not seem miraculous.

However, in 2007 I had the honor and privilege of witnessing the birth of my first granddaughter, Rosannah. She is my first grandchild and I was beside myself with excitement and anticipation.

When her head crowned, I felt almost an angelic presence that moved me to tears. There was some fetal distress, so Rosannah was quickly whisked away, but the moment of her birth was an overwhelmingly wondrous moment. And just so you don’t worry, she is absolutely fine now.

A mere 19 months later, my second grandchild, Briannah, was ready for her world debut. Both Alicia and I were a little nervous during the labor because the delivery was induced and almost three weeks before the due date. I did the typical praying, positive thinking and visualization to help my daughter, as well as the more practical matters such as rubbing Alicia’s feet, talking to the nurses and being my daughter’s advocate.

Soon (although not soon enough) Briannah was ready for her arrival. Alicia’s husband, Greg, held her hand, and Amy, Alicia’s doula, was by her side. Greg’s mother, Sandy, and I took up residence a few feet away from Alicia’s feet. Then it happened again. Briannah’s head crowned. Once again I felt an angel’s presence, and a feeling of wonder.

This time my granddaughter was not whisked away. She was allowed to nurse at her mother’s breast. Soon, Rosannah was brought into the room to say hello to her new sister.

Of course I was ecstatic with joy that both mother and daughter were alive and well, but I still think about that magical moment of birth. It was like no other feeling I have experienced. Did I witness the merging of a baby’s body and soul? Was I the witness of a guardian angel watching over ready to take his or her place by Briannah’s side? I’m not sure. All that I know is I experienced a miracle and I have even more appreciation for the magical wonder that we call life.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What Did I Forget Today?

I am forgetful. There, I said it. My name is Sally and I’m memory impaired. There should be self-help meetings for folks like me. We could call it the Forgetful People Society. Unfortunately it would likely disband quickly. The members would forget to show up.

I can’t even blame my lapse in memory to my advancing years because I remember forgetting (is that an oxymoron?) from a very young age. I can’t tell you how many conversations in my youth went something like this:

MOM- Sally, stop squinting. Put on your glasses.
ME – I can’t remember where they are (an excuse, but it was true).
DAD – I swear you wouldn’t know where your head was if it wasn’t screwed on top of your shoulders.

To help compensate for my lack of memory, I make lists. I also tend to take the same roads when I travel, put things in the same spot (heaven forbid someone move MY cheese) and I’ve learned to rely on the kindness of strangers and ask for help when needed. There is a good side to my hazy memory. I don’t hold grudges, I forgive easily and I assume the best in folks. It is way too taxing to remember every hurt or unkind word, thought or action that may or may not have been intentionally directed at me.

However, other than the standard problems that go along with a fuzzy memory, there is one severe drawback that I’m trying very hard to correct. It’s forgetting to be grateful. There are so many wonderful things that happen every day that we take for granted. So I started a new routine. When I wake up, the first thing I do is say that I’m thankful for another day. As I become aware of my waking senses I express gratitude that I can see, hear, walk, taste and smell. As I go on throughout the tasks at hand, I try to remember how fortunate I am to have wonderful friends and family, that I have enough to eat, that I have a roof over my head etc.

When things are going great, it may be hard to think about gratitude. The old saying about “You don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone” is so true. So I’ve decided I’m not going to wait. I think about several things that I am grateful for every day and take a moment to say a little thank you out loud. I know what you’re thinking. You think I’m some Pollyanna with no real problems. Not true. I’m not going to provide a litany of complaints, but I will mention one malady. I have splitting migraine headaches. I get about six of them a month and they can really set me back. When I wake up without one, I say how thankful I am for my health and that I don’t have a headache. When I do have a migraine I express my gratitude for the medication that is available to me (yeah Imitrex!)

Another example is the going-back-to-basics-gratitude stimulator. I go camping for about 3 weeks every summer. I was never a big fan of camping, but I like to travel and car camping is a very inexpensive way to visit new places. CB and I sleep in the back of our little camper on the back of our Ford F-150 pick up truck. The SMALL camper is stuffed full of things (sometimes even our pet rabbits and their cage). There are times I feel like I’m in a sardine can (and between the bunnies and the lack of a shower we all smell like stinky sardines as well!)

But I love hiking in the forest, sitting by a babbling stream, gazing at the brilliant stars in the evening sky, and taking in nature’s beauty. I’m not that fond of cooking over a fire or Coleman stove, picking dirt out of my food, fetching my own water and wondering when my next shower will be. But by the time I get home I want to sing Hallelujah to the refrigerator, stove, clean sheets, running water and flushing toilets of the world. If I didn’t spend a little time without these things I wouldn’t appreciate them so.

So in the morning and evening, and sometimes throughout the day, I try to offer an internal tribute to the little things in life, as well as the big things. My life isn’t perfect, but neither am I. And yes, I’m forgetful. But not so forgetful that I can’t remember to say thank you for a few of the many things I am grateful for.

In closing, I would encourage you to remember to feel gratitude in your life, even if it’s only a few things each day. If you must forget, than say goodbye to the little inconveniences and aggravations you experience. Let those nasty little thoughts go by the wayside before they choke off any happiness that is trying to filter through.

"Better by far that you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad." Christina Rossetti.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

You Don't Say!

I was driving down the road, fiddling with the radio and I accidentally tuned into a call-in show. A young girl had called in with a problem regarding her sexual identity. As I listened, it became increasingly evident that the host offered no meaningful advice whatsoever. However, by reflecting on her situation (and since the host was offering no useful guidance) the young woman seemed to come to grips with her situation. In retrospect, I think the radio show was a comedy routine (or I accidentally stumbled onto the campiest radio program ever broadcast).

However, it made me think of an earlier incident in my own life. I was appointed a chapter leader in the Buddhist group I belong to, and occasionally I offer guidance to members in my spiritual community. On a couple of occasions, people have told me how I had helped them. Of course, as the author of a self-help book that has been stalled in the publishing process, I sometimes need an encouraging word or two myself.

Just the other day, Barbara, a wise and funny woman I’ve known for years, called me on the phone. She told me about some difficulties she was facing. Barbara is a very optimistic and humorous woman (she is also a professional clown), so she definitely has a way of communicating that is down right engaging. She always makes me laugh. I’m not sure if I was in a receptive mood, or just really didn’t know what to say, so I listened. At the end of our conversation, Barbara told me how much I had helped her. This was ironic, because I really hadn’t said much. I just listened.

It was a very similar scenario with the radio talk show host. He hadn’t said much of anything (or at least nothing useful) but by the end of the conversation, the caller seemed to have discovered her own answer. I thought about this. I am a problem solver. That is how my brain operates. And when my mind is clicking, my tongue (with its endless stream of advice) is not far behind.

However, I have to remind myself to temper my loquacious tendency and reflect on the famous words of the Greek philosopher Epictetus. “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” While advice can be appreciated, more often than not, a friendly and sympathetic ear is valued more. While there may be exceptions, I do believe that most of us, given the time to reflect, intuitively know the answer we are seeking. We just need to take the time, and be sensitive enough, to listen to our own inner wisdom.

With that in mind, this blog entry will be short. When a friend asks for advice, take the time to listen. You may find that no words are necessary. And when you are struggling with a decision, take a few deep breaths and listen to your own inner voice. There is quote (and I’m paraphrasing) Speak less and listen more. No one learned anything worthwhile from talking. That said, I will say no more.
Until next time…